British Airways has outlined robust contingency plans following a decision by the Unite union to announce 20 days of strikes.
The British flag-carrier confirmed in a statement to passengers all flights from Gatwick Airport would be unaffected, along with departures from London City Airport.
Heathrow Airport – the busiest in the UK – is likely to see some disruption, with British Airways presently in negotiations with rival carriers to organise alternative services.
“At Heathrow we plan to operate a substantial part of our long-haul schedule and there will be a number of daily flights to every destination across our short-haul network,” explained a BA statement.
“We are speaking to a number of carriers about leasing in extra aircraft to support our short-haul schedule and also obtaining thousands of seats from other airlines to help our customers rebook if their original flight is cancelled.”
Final schedules will be announced in the days preceding each strike.
Unite called cabin crew at the airline out on four separate five day strikes, scheduled to begin on May 18th. Strikes will then begin every six days, causing maximum disruption to British Airways schedules.
The dates include the half-term holidays for many school children, as well as the second May Bank Holiday.
The latest Unite decision marks a sharp escalation in the battle between the two over the modernisation of the carrier.
Unite joint general secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley said: “Cabin crew are left with no choice but to take further strike action.
“There can be no industrial peace without meaningful negotiations and while management victimises trade unionists and uses disciplinary procedures in a witch-hunt.
“The seven days notice period is sufficient time for BA management to do the sensible thing and reopen meaningful negotiations.”
The latest strike action was supported by over 80 per cent of those balloted by Unite. The union had previously “strongly urged” members to reject the deal.
However, British Airways reminded Unite the offer was “still on the table”, and criticised the union’s latest actions.
“British Airways is saddened but not surprised that Unite has announced further plans for extensive disruption for potentially hundreds of thousands of our customers over a busy period that includes the May half-term holidays,” read a statement.
“We have made a very fair offer, which meets the concerns the union raised during 14 months of negotiations and also ensures that our crew remain the best rewarded in the UK airline industry.”
British Airways has suggested in recent days Unite has shifted the focus of the debate away from the implementation of new working conditions at the airline, toward the reinstatement of privileges denied to those who participated in earlier strikes.